There’s no doubt that the way we’ve used our phones in the past few years has changed drastically. Ever since streaming giants Netflix and Stan launched in Australia back in 2015 — alongside the technology to support it — streaming videos on our phone is becoming more and more common.
The only downside is that streaming video can really chew through your plan’s data allowance. One hour of video streaming in standard definition uses around 1GB of data, while one hour of high-definition streaming will use about 3GB. If you’re watching videos daily using your mobile data, it’s not surprising to see that you could use up your monthly data fairly quickly.
So what’s the solution? The good news is that telcos keep increasing data inclusions on plans. So, while a few years back you would have to hop on an expensive plan for the luxury of 10GB of data, its now easier to come across this amount, and more, at much more affordable prices. Not only that but some telcos offer data-free streaming of certain services, like video and music, or ‘unlimited’ data plans so you can enjoy catching up on your favourite show without the worry.
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Data-free music and video streaming
Some telcos offer entertainment extras, such as data-free streaming of certain services as added bonuses to entice you over. While Telstra, Optus and Vodafone are the main players which tend to offer these extras, some mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs), like Boost Mobile, also include these extras. What’s on offer does vary from telco to telco.
Telstra, while generally on the pricier end of the plan spectrum, offers quite a few extras across all plans that might be worth the bigger bill depending on your phone plan needs. You can expect data-free streaming of Apple Music and a range of sports, including the NRL and AFL. If you already have a subscription to Apple Music, this could be a big draw card, especially as streaming music can also use up a fair bit of data. The data-free sports streaming is great if you’re sports-mad, especially for the NRL, AFL, AFLW, A League and Netball. Not only will you be able to stream all of these competitions, but you’ll also have a free access if you’re a Telstra Mobile customer, with subscriptions to all five of these services worth $329.99 (per season) in total. Telstra postpaid customers also get access to three months of free access to BINGE, which is great if you love streaming TV shows.
Optus offers a few tidy data-free streaming extras. On its prepaid ‘Epic Data’ plans, it offers up to 10GB of ‘streaming data’ in addition to the general data inclusion, for use with Netflix, Stan and ABC iView. Optus also includes data-free streaming of Optus sport (with access to many of the major European football competitions).
Vodafone doesn’t include data-free streaming extras built into your plan cost, however these are available as add-ons for select plans. These add-ons, known as Vodafone Passes, start at $5 for the Chat Pass (WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger), $10 for the Social Pass (Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and Pinterest), $10 for the Music Pass (Spotify, Soundcloud, Amazon Music, Deezer and Tidal) and $15 for the Video Pass (Netflix, Stan and Amazon Prime Video).
Best of the rest
There’s no doubt that data-free extras are very enticing incentives for joining up to certain plans, even when these extras may have restrictions, such as a limit to only streaming in Standard Definition. While Telstra, Optus and Vodafone are generally more expensive plans than what many MVNOs offer, these perks can account for the price difference, especially if you know you’ll actually use them.
Some telcos may even include free subscriptions to the likes of Netflix, Stan and Foxtel Now for a set time, or data-free streaming as bonus offers from time to time. As always, when comparing a phone plan, take these into consideration and have a look at what is on offer -byou might be able to pick up a great deal if you sign up at the right time.
Video streaming on phone plan with unlimited data
If you do use a lot of data for video streaming, another alternative is to find a plan with ‘unlimited data’. The only catch is that this unlimited data is generally at capped speeds of 1.5Mbps, which kicks in once you’ve used up your fast-speed data inclusion. Vodafone offers this on all of its four 12-month SIM-only postpaid plans and its postpaid month-to-month plans that are bundled with a new device. As for fast-speed data inclusions, the $40 will get you 10GB, the $50 includes 60GB, the $60 plan has 100GB and for $80, you’ll get 150GB. Once you’ve used up those data inclusions, the unlimited capped-speed data will kick in, with the 1.5Mbps speed still fast enough for standard-definition video streaming.
While Telstra had previously offered the only phone plan with unlimited fast-speed data, this plan has been scrapped by the telco in favour of a simpler suite of postpaid plans (with data ranging from 15GB to 150GB), which all come with no excess data charges. These plans include some fairly generous data inclusions, and once you’ve used up your included gigabytes, you’ll be able to continue using data but at the capped speed of 1.5Mbps.
Both Telstra and Vodafone offer plans with over 100GB of data per month, and if you only stream one hour of video per day (in standard or even high definition), this fast-speed data might still be enough for you. Take a look at how much data you currently use, and how much you think you would use realistically.
Big data iPhone plans
Looking for a new iPhone 11 Pro to combine with any of the above mentioned plans, which include generous data inclusions and even ‘unlimited’ data? The following table shows a range of 64GB iPhone 11 Pro plans from Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost, from the lowest to highest and then by data allowance, smallest to largest. This is a selection of products including links to our referral partners.
If your current plan doesn’t include enough data for your needs and you find yourself restricting your usage each month, it may be worth looking at a new phone plan. Otherwise, if you have never or only occasionally gone over your data limit, and you’re still able to use your phone for everything you want – including video streaming – switching to a more expensive plan with more data might not be the way to go.
Is a plan with data-free streaming worth it?
Everyone uses their phone differently. People with long commutes to and from work or school might tend to use more data on streaming video than those who have shorter commutes, or those who prefer to watch videos at home. When assessing whether a plan with data-free streaming is right for you, you’ll need to consider what your genuine needs are.
If you currently feel restricted with how you can use your data, routinely go over your plan allowance, or have to download your Netflix or Stan shows to watch on the go so you can save your data for other uses, it might well be worth considering switching plans. Whether this is a plan with a little or a lot more data, a plan with unlimited capped-speed data, or a plan with data-free streaming extras, it’s up to you. If you like the data-free sports streaming on offer from Telstra and Optus, that could be worth looking into. If you use data for other video streaming, including YouTube, an ‘unlimited’ data plan or a plan with lots of data might be a better option.
It seems that rather than data-free streaming, we might see more ‘unlimited’ data plans in the future. Until that day, its worth looking around to see what plans are on offer from all telcos. While the big three might have those tempting entertainment extras, you could find better value for your needs in a plan from a smaller telco, especially if you want a cheap plan with plenty of data. So before you jump into a new plan, consider your needs, and compare phone plans to determine which plan will ultimately be the best for you.